For the Conservatives, 2021 has been another rollercoaster year again dominated by Covid-19 and which ended with Boris Johnson’s grip on power questioned as never before.
The party entered January in chaotic fashion having seen the Prime Minister effectively forced to cancel Christmas due to the emergence of the fast-spreading Alpha variant.
On the backbenches, MPs chafed over lockdown restrictions, complaining about the impact on the economy and civil liberties.
But for all the grumbling, Mr Johnson’s political ascendancy seemed secure – never more so than in May when the Tories made gains in the local elections in England and took another “red wall” seat from Labour with a stunning win in the Hartlepool by-election.
Even as the Conservatives celebrated, however, the first storm clouds were gathering on the horizon.
The following month the party suffered a shock defeat in the Chesham and Amersham by-election as the Liberal Democrats overturned a 16,000 Tory majority amid much local discontent over the Government’s proposed planning reforms.
Nevertheless the Conservatives were able to go into the summer in good spirits with the Prime Minister announcing the end of most coronavirus restrictions in England on so-called “freedom day” – July 19.
When MPs returned to Westminster in September, Mr Johnson was swift to stamp his authority with a Cabinet reshuffle which saw a clear-out of older ministers while Michael Gove was put in charge of the all-important “levelling up” agenda.
However, the first rumblings of discontent could already be heard with an announcement of a hike in national insurance to help the NHS recover from the pandemic and to reform social care, in breach of a manifesto pledge not to put up taxes.
Disquiet among Tory MPs intensified when Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget in October confirmed the tax burden was set to rise to its highest level since Clement Attlee’s Labour government in the 1940s.
But it was the botched attempt to rewrite the Commons standards rules after former cabinet minister Owen Paterson was found to have breached the ban on paid lobbying that really ignited Tory anger and led to the first serious questioning of Mr Johnson’s position.
Accusations that a rail investment plan for the North and the social care reforms did not match up to past promises only added to the pressure, as did a bizarre speech to the CBI in which he lost his places in his notes and referenced a visit to Peppa Pig World.
What has really had voters questioning the Prime Minister’s authority is reports that his staff held a festive party in No 10 in December 2020 while indoor social mixing was prohibited – and only 24 hours before Mr Johnson effectively cancelled Christmas for millions.
There are even allegations Mr Johnson gave a farewell speech for an aide in November last year while England was enduring a month-long lockdown, with the claims about the two Downing Street events subject to an investigation.
Allegra Stratton, a former spokeswoman for the Prime Minister, was the first casualty of the saga after a leaked video showed her and other aides joking about a “fictional” party in No 10, in footage shot only four days after the December 18 Christmas drinks reportedly happened.
Opinion polls suggesting voters are starting to shun the Tories over the stream of controversies turned into reality on December 16 when Mr Johnson saw the healthy 22,900 blue majority in Mr Paterson’s former North Shropshire constituency overturned in a seismic by-election victory for the Liberal Democrats.
Only days before that, Mr Johnson had witnessed the largest revolt of his premiership over his Plan B Covid proposals, which included making vaccine passports mandatory in larger venues, to fight the threat of the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
However, there were better moments for the Prime Minister to end the year.
He and wife Carrie welcomed their second child, daughter Romy, and, politically, research showing Omicron is milder than previous Covid variants meant his administration did not have to cancel Christmas for a second year in a row, with New Year’s Eve celebrations also given the go-ahead in England.
As he looks to turn the page on a difficult few months, allies of the Prime Minister will be hoping he comes back reinvigorated after the festive break otherwise it could be an even bumpier year ahead.